Navigating the journey from adolescence to adulthood brings different experiences for everyone. Some young adults transition into further education or the workforce, and others take different paths. While according to research, the unemployment rate for neurodivergent individuals in the US may be as high as 30% to 40%, you have many opportunities to prepare your child for success in their individual future, and it is never too late to start.
As parents of complex kids, it's natural to have mixed feelings during these times of change. Concerns and questions about their future and employability are common. This article is offered as a first step to support and guide you. Additional resources are available to support parents of complex children, teens, and young adults on Impactparents.com; general resources are available on Acuity.com.
In this article, we will offer actionable points to guide you in preparing your children, teens, and young adults for their future life and careers.
Neurodivergence refers to differences in the way a person’s brain thinks, processes information, and/or behaves in comparison to what is considered typical or Aaneurotypical.
Common neurodivergent conditions familiar to parents of complex kids include ADHD, Autism, Dyslexia, and Dyspraxia.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is characterized by attention, trouble concentrating, poor organizational skills, forgetfulness, restlessness, emotional dysregulation, hyperactivity, and more.
Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized, in part, by:
- Difficulty in social interactions
- Over or under sensitivity to light, taste, or touch
- Repetitive and restrictive mannerisms
- Extreme anxiety
- Meltdowns and shutdowns
- Obsessive Interests
Perhaps the most common learning challenge, dyslexia, affects a person’s ability to read, write, spell, or process language. Symptoms may include poor handwriting, difficulty in learning the names and sounds of letters, slow writing speed, making constant errors while reading, poorly organized written work, etc.
Also known as Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD), Dyspraxia is a disability that affects movement and coordination in children and adults. This condition makes it difficult for them to perform precise movements and activities.
Symptoms may include general awkwardness or clumsiness, difficulty writing, running or jumping, easy fatigue, difficulty learning new skills, etc.
When preparing neurodivergent children or teens for adult life and careers, below are some things for parents to consider:
When possible, starting at an early age in planning for careers is helpful. All children take time to figure out what they want to be when they grow up. This may be even more true for neurodivergent children. Starting from an early age, they might experiment with various activities and interests.
By embracing their unique interests and abilities, you can empower them to pursue activities that they enjoy, where they are more likely to find success.
Vocational training starts around age 14. Engaging your children at this age, either formally or informally, can help them be equipped with the practical skills needed to thrive after high school or college.
Hard Skills vs Adaptive (soft) Skills
For people with neurological traits, hard skills, and soft skills are learned competencies that can take time to achieve. This is why it is important for parents to start exposing their teens to life and social skills ahead of time — enabling them time to practice and prepare for the world of work.
Vocational training teaches a variety of hard skills needed to perform job responsibilities, such as learning how to code, graphic design, video editing, budgeting, etc.
In addition, it is also important for neurodivergent children to learn soft skills, such as empathy, emotional intelligence, emotional control, communication skills, and self-awareness. This is especially true when kids have autism or regulation challenges common with conditions that impact executive function.
Whether enrolling them in acting classes or speaking courses, sports or martial arts, or a range of other activities that can introduce kids to a range of life experiences, interactions, and relationships, you can prepare them for job interviews and future interactions with colleagues.
In addition to these, it is also important for children with autism to learn soft skills. You can enroll them in courses to develop presentation speaking skills. This will prepare them for job interviews, and future interactions with colleagues.
Understanding their Emotions
Parents of neurodivergent children may initially have certain expectations of their children based on societal standards. This can take a toll on the parent-child relationship. It is important for parents to accept and celebrate their children for their unique strengths and characteristics.
By understanding and acknowledging your child’s emotions, you make them feel heard and loved. You also help them understand that their feelings and perspectives are valid. This goes a long way in building their confidence.
In addition, when you have a better understanding of their emotions, you can help them express them in emotionally appropriate ways. This builds communication skills, which is a core skill to cult for any workplace environment.
Understanding their Strengths
Everyone has unique strengths and talents. By spending more time together, not only do you build a bond, but you also identify your child's strengths and abilities. It is a great basis for preparing them for a career. By noticing their activities, you might observe that your child likes to draw or likes computer games — and is pretty good at it.
You can also identify their strengths by visiting a career advisor or school counselor at your child’s school, if applicable. That person can help your child to identify strengths and interests.
When you understand what kind of activities they are interested in, you can encourage them to consider training programs to harness their strengths and build on those skills.
Exploring Career Possibilities Through Exposure to Neurodivergent Role Models
A major frustration many neurodivergent children face is the feeling that they are different from their peers. They also might worry about being unable to meet certain expectations. It is important to provide them with all the encouragement and resources to help them build confidence.
A little research can lead to a multitude of successful individuals who are open about their neurodivergent conditions and can serve as role models to your child. This will help them feel less alone and more inspired to pursue their dreams and passions.
Many neurodivergent individuals have been able to build successful careers for themselves. Examples include Oscar-winning actor Sir Anthony Hopkins, Olympic gold medalist Simon Biles, and climate activist Greta Thunberg, among others. If they can succeed, then your child can too!
In today’s world, raising a child with neurodiversity can be quite challenging. Planning early, understanding their emotions and abilities, and exposure to neurodivergent role models can go a long way in preparing them for a work environment.
With patience and tailored support, parents and caregivers can help neurodivergent teens build their skills and confidence as they prepare for independent adult lives and meaningful careers.